state court candidates GOP forum

State Court candidates Trina Griffiths, Scott Halperin, Diana Simmons, David Willingham, Joseph Atkins and Mazi Mazloom participate in a Cobb County Republican Party virtual town hall with Tonya Boga, Catherine Busse, Michael Murphy and Jason Shepherd. The town hall was held via Zoom and shared to Facebook Live. 

The six men and women vying for the vacant judgeship on the Cobb County State Court answered questions and made appeals to voters at a recent virtual town hall hosted by the Cobb Republican Party.

The candidates for State Court Post 6 are: Joseph Atkins, Trina Griffiths, Scott Halperin, Mazi Mazloom, Diana Simmons and David Willingham. The state court hears traffic violations and criminal misdemeanors.

The Post 6 seat was vacated with the retirement announcement of Judge Toby Prodgers. The nonpartisan election is June 9.

Joseph AtkinsAtkins, who said he has worked nearly 33 years as an attorney, said he has a wide breadth of experience, as well as a background in small business that will inform his time on the bench. He promised to bring integrity and patience to the courtroom and discussed his upbringing on a family farm, saying, “I know what hard work is.

“If you elect me as your judge, my plan would be to run an efficient courtroom. I’ve been a small business owner, I understand efficiency. I want to run a fair courtroom and an efficient courtroom and properly use the Cobb County taxpayers’ money. I’ve served on jury, I’ve tried a bunch of cases all over the state,” he said. “I’ve seen what works, I’ve seen what doesn’t work and I will know how to run court in a fair way.”

Trina GriffithsGriffiths said she is faithful to God, her family, and her community, she cares for everyone in the legal system and she can “make tough decisions.” She pointed to her experience specifically in the county’s state court.

“I am the candidate with the most experience in Cobb County State Court, 24 years, prosecution and defense. I have the experience. I also have the perspective. I’ve been on both sides of cases for over a decade each, in the criminal sector for the state as well as for criminal defense,” she said. “I also have the work ethic. When I was a prosecutor, I went above and beyond. I prosecuted in the solicitor’s office, which prosecutes in state court, but I also prosecuted a felony case because it had to be done.”

Scott HalperinHalperin said he has spent his entire career serving his community. Before law school, he said, he worked in a legal clinic for Atlanta’s homeless population, and since graduating has worked in legal aid, private civil practice and public and private defense, and used to lead the criminal defense section of the county’s bar association.

“I will run a fair court, I will run an efficient court. I have done nothing but serve my community from the day I graduated from law school and, in fact, from five years before I graduated law school. And I will bring that same sense of community service to the job on the bench,” he said. “It’s the judge’s job to make sure that justice is dispensed evenly — and efficiently, I absolutely agree. Besides the parties that are appearing before the bench, the next most important people to me are going to be the taxpayers of Cobb County who are footing the bill for the case that is in front of me. So I’m asking you to let me take my service to the next level, let me dedicate my talents to the betterment of Cobb County’s judiciary.”

Mazi MazloomMazloom, who serves as a municipal judge for Marietta and Roswell, owns the Mazloom Law Firm, which focuses on criminal defense and personal injury. He said he has worked as an assistant solicitor for the county, an assistant district attorney and is a past president of the Cobb County Bar Association. He listed some prominent Cobb leaders who he said endorsed his campaign, including Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood, Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling and Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin.

“I have experience that none of the other candidates have because I’ve been on every side of a courtroom,” he said. “I think this is the next level of public service. Having been a prosecutor, having been involved in all the nonprofit organizations that I’ve been involved with over the past 20 years, I have had leadership roles in several organizations, and I think this is a leadership role that I’m prepared for, and that’s why I’m looking to become our next state court judge.”

Diana SimmonsSimmons, a deputy chief assistant solicitor general for Cobb County, described herself as a career prosecutor who as a judge would treat everyone with respect. She praised the county’s accountability and treatment courts and expressed condolences for the Smyrna Police Department’s recent loss of Officer Christopher Ewing.

Simmons recalled a time she met a man in court with a long criminal record.

“His mother came up to me afterward and said, ‘I know that my son is not perfect and has made plenty of mistakes. Thank you for being so kind and treating him with respect. It’s so rare that I see people treat him like that, and it warms my mother heart,’” she said. “That’s the kind of judge that you can count on me to be for the people of Cobb, is to treat everyone with dignity and respect before me no matter what walk of life they come from.”

David WillinghamWillingham, a former senior assistant district attorney for Cobb County and owner of Willingham Law Firm in Marietta, stressed efficiency in the courtroom, which was later also a talking point for many of the other candidates.

“One thing we haven’t heard a whole lot about tonight is efficiency, and it is business. We have to get back to business. Our courts are log jammed. Our courts are inefficient. Our courts are too slow. I can fix that. I am a business person. I’ve got a business economics degree from Georgia State University,” he said. “I’ve been in private business now for seven years. I’ve been very successful. I don’t need to be doing this but I want to do this to serve my community.”

For the full forum, visit the Cobb County Republican Party Facebook page.

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